The question we’re being asked the most this month is “what about the smoke taint, aren’t you worried about all of the fires?” The answer is that all of our estate grapes appear to have escaped the smoke. The reason is that for the smoke to affect the grapes it needs to be fresh. Fresh smoke is “oily” and “wet” and when it sits on the grapes it can penetrate the skins and change the flavors in a bad way. Luckily all of the smoke we’ve seen this year in the vineyard has had to travel quite a few miles to get to us – either from Santa Cruz or Napa – and has dried out and become basically ash which isn’t a threat. The SCU Complex fire that came within a couple miles of the vineyard was downwind the whole time so, although it was scary, didn’t hurt our fruit. It will be several months until the full impact of the fire on California’s grape industry is understood but right now it looks like most of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino have been affected as well as Livermore, parts of Lodi, and all of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Monterey, Carmel, and the Santa Lucia Highlands were hit hard but most of Paso Robles was spared.
Unfortunately this year had more threats than just smoke. For most of the summer we had unseasonably cool weather but three times we suffered through heat spikes. The one in June was fine, we saw it coming and gave the vines some water to help them survive. The spike in late August was a little worse but with extra water the grapes survived well. Then came almost of week of 105°+ heat with heavy smoke in early September – on Labor day it 116° in the vineyards – and the grapes just gave up. The heat led to smaller than average berries that are high in sugar, but low in flavor. Yields are way down and we’ll have to work hard to keep our quality up. That said, “Good winemakers will make good wine regardless of the conditions” so we’ll do our best.
Welcome to fall and the beginning of harvest! Can one of you please tell me where the summer went? Obviously a lot of our ambitious plans for 2020 never came to fruition. We had planned a year full of events and fun but instead moved to a plan called – “just survive until next year”. Don’t worry, we’ll still be here next spring and then we’ll all try the year over again.
One small bonus this year has offered us is plenty of time to catch up on projects and get ready for harvest. We’re expecting our first grapes, Chardonnay, around the 15th of the month and the crushpad is all set up and ready to go. This year we’ll have the place all to ourselves and we’re looking forward to plenty of space to make wine. Harvest is also going to be a little different this year (aren’t they all?) in that we’ll be creating more wines for our LVD Wine Company label including Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet, and even a little Merlot. Because of the lack of pickers available for Covid we’ll be hosting several picking parties instead of just the one for Carignane. Depending on how it all falls we’ll be looking for help picking all of the estate grapes – probably three mornings – as well as the Carignane. Look for further information via emails beginning next week.
While it would be a huge stretch to say “things are back to normal” around here, we’ve made some progress. The Tasting Room is open and we’re accepting guests for outdoor tasting. No reservation is necessary but you’ll need to leave the pets and kids at home on the weekends and all tasting is by flights served outside. You might want to consider bringing a lawn chair to help with distancing.
Sunday the 2nd we’re bringing music back to the winery with Rod Sphere playing under the oak tree from 1 pm to 4 pm. Later this month we’re planning to bring back our movie nights. Our best guess is the last Friday in August, the 28th at about 8 pm. We’ll announce the movie in a week or so.
We’ve finally received our wine bottle at huge expense all the way from China. It was a full truckload – which we’ve never done before – and should allow us to catch up on bottling, including some of the “special wines like the Mourvedre and Carignane. We’ll be putting 1000 cases of delicious goodness together over the next month, just in time for harvest.
The grapes are looking pretty good. They’re still a little more green than I’d expect at this point in the season but it’s been a cool year (again) so we’re behind by about three weeks. It’s too early to panic so we’ll just bide our time and let nature take it’s course.
We’re running out of things to do around here. There’s still a bunch of bottling that has to happen in the next couple of months but the glass isn’t here yet so that’s on hold. We’re working on the blends for the 2017 wines and labels for the 2017 reds. All of the vineyards are looking great although I think they might be a couple of weeks behind due to the cooler than normal weather. Soon we’ll need to decide if we need to drop fruit to allow the remainder to properly ripen.
The Tasting Room and grounds are ready – except for a deep cleaning – to open on a days notice. We’ve got all of our signs, extra glasses, masks, cleaners, sanitizer – we’re ready to go!
I think the next focus for us is to complete our Marketing Plan for the remainder of the year. Due to the current situation the plan is moving away from wine walks, offsite pouring, and restaurants to an almost 100% digital plan. Lots of trivia, recipes, photos, the new blog – anything to get our name out in front of the public.
As I write this on May 31st Governor Newsom is talking about moving forward into Phase 3 of the re-opening of California and allowing movie theaters to open. That sounds promising except that the state considers wineries to be the same as bars – which they’ve already said will be the last, along with mass sporting events to reopen. Of course we’re sitting in Santa Clara County, one of the two hardest hit parts of the state and therefore likely to be later in opening. We should hear more this week but we’re really hoping to open in some capacity on Saturday, June 13th from noon to 5 pm.
Which means we can have a Wine Club Release “Party” on Saturday June 20th! We have no idea what we mean by “party” because we don’t know what rules we’ll have to be running under. There will – somehow – be food, music, and new wines.
Remember the old joke “Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?” Well, other than being closed, we’re having a great year. With little else to do, the vineyards are in great shape. We had a little scare this week when we had a windstorm and rain right at the end of flowering but we checked the vineyards this morning and we think we got lucky. The Cabernet might have a little damage but it looks like we dodged a huge bullet.
We’re pretty much all caught up in the winery itself. There’s a bunch of bottling to do but the glass and corks won’t be here for a couple of weeks. Right now we’re struggling to create all of the extra posters and such required to re-open the tasting room – “wash your hands”, “keep your distance”, “do the five”, “stay out if you’re sick” – lots of new art for the walls!
Governor Newsom has extended the Shelter-In-Place Order through the end of May and we will remain in compliance until that time. Our current expectation is to see essential businesses given the OK to open on the first of June. We are not essential and so do not expect to be open until the second phase in mid-June.
We’re not sure what the future looks like in wine tasting but feel that we have a huge advantage given our open air tasting area and expansive grounds. Music should be fine going forward. Movie nights shouldn’t be an issue either. We’ll have to give classes some thought since they are normally taught inside the tasting room and can be crowded.
The summer Wine Club release which was originally scheduled for early May will probably be held the second Saturday after we re-open – our current best guess is June 20th. Stay tuned, and thank you for all of your support during this difficult time for small businesses.
CORONOVIRUS UPDATE – We are closed until April 7th
I spent much of this morning debating with myself about the relative merits of keeping the winery at least partially open versus closing it completely. I went around and around until I realized…
I love wine – and we truly need the revenue – but nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than the health and safety of you and your loved ones. In the end, the decision is easy – we will 100% honor the Shelter-In-Place order from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and be completely closed until April 7th.
You can support us by following our lead and making the sacrifice for the good of our community… and then joining us for one hell of a party when this is finally over.
This is the month that kicks-off the wine “season”. The winery is coming alive, Apricots and Cherries are blooming, grapes have been pruned, and we’re thinking about putting away the Tasting Room heaters. We’ve pretty much finalized the entire 2020 events calendar including the Spring, Summer, and Fall Music Series, the Summer Movie Series, the Wine Stroll list, and of course the monthly Symposia schedule. Look for details to the right if you’re at your desk or below if you’re using your phone.
Even with all of that, there are move events on the way awaiting announcement. Stay tuned for exciting news about several winemaker dinners and off-site pouring events!
As far as grapes and wine go… we’re pretty much done pruning, winemaking is caught up for the spring so now we concentrate on bottling. Bottles and supplies are on the way so we expect to be busy in April and May putting all of the delicious goodness into bottles for release later this year. And yes, the Port will finally be bottled.
February… the last of our two “down” months. If there’s any time at all that we can slow down, rest, and reset for the coming year it’s the months of January and February. Of course it’s not all playing with the dog and watching the grass grow. February is the month for closing out the previous year’s financials and crafting the story we’re going to tell the IRS. It’s also the month we finalize our Annual Operational Plan – the list of events; bands, movies, wine walks, and parties we’re planning for the coming year – and our Annual Production Plan – the list of major winemaking activities; bottling, racking, harvest, etc.
This year we have the added fun of kicking off the negotiations for our next lease here at 3200 Dryden Ave. I know it seems like the year is flying – it’s already February, and it feels like spring – but how about how fast the past five years have gone by? When we first negotiated our lease five years seemed like forever. Isn’t it amazing how quickly forever can pass?
We have a full calendar planned for 2020 including classes, movies, parties, and other celebrations. Check out the calendar to the right on this page. The dates are pretty much set in stone and the details will continue to be added as we get them. There’s one more event to add, probably sometime in June (I just thought of it), our 5th Anniversary Party! Stay tuned – sign up for emails below – for more information.
It’s New Year’s Day and the plan (we’re big on planning around here) was to sleep in until 10 am, make a big pot of Chili, play with the puppy, and watch the Rose Bowl (go Oregon, but only because of the Pac-12). But here I sit, in a Starbucks at 9 am, working on our event calendar for next year. Partially because this is such a big year for us (couldn’t sleep), and partially because I might be addicted to caffeine (Venti Pike Place, no room please).
The coming year has a lot of fun events in the works such as:
– Music every Sunday afternoon from April through September
– Six Summer Movie Nights, a Halloween movie, and a holiday movie
– A Spring Barrel Tasting, a Fall Harvest Party, and a Holiday Party
– Four Wine Club Releases (Feb, May, Aug, and Nov)
– Ten classes hosted here at the winery
– Special Wine Club events like our pruning and picking parties as well as the fall Harvest Party.
We’ve got some new wines coming as well. We’re looking forward to:
– Our 2015 Reserve Syrah
– The 2018 Picpoul blanc
– Our first single varietal Carignane
– The new 2016 Nocturne
– Finally, the 2015 Syrah Port
– Our first “sweet” wines, an off-dry Viognier and a slightly sweet red blend.
We’re looking forward to sharing all of this with you in 2020. To keep abreast of all the happenings, add your name to our mailing list (on the bottom of this page), or better yet stop by our Tasting Room and join our Wine Club. You’ll receive free tastings, free tickets to most events, and 20% off all wine, merchandise, and classes.
Wow, where did December go? I seem to remember lots of holiday festivities, decorations, music and whatnot, but it looks like we never got around to updating the website – bad winemaker. We’ll do better in the new year… promise!
It’s now officially November and we’re still deep in harvest. Honestly, we knew this would happen based on how late we started but it’s starting to wear on us. It’s funny, at the beginning of the season it’s hard to watch the social media feeds of other wineries because they’re all touting their first day’s on the crush pad and we’re still weeks away. Now, at the end of the season, the opposite is happening. Everybody is celebrating the end of the season and we’re still awaiting fruit this coming Tuesday (Picpoul blanc and Charbono). Our best guess is that this coming week will bring the last of the year’s fruit. We’ll finish fermentation around the 20th, and be barreled down just in time for Thanksgiving. We’re planning to celebrate the holiday hard with lots of food, football, and naps.
“Who knows, it’s just farming” is our pat answer when people ask us questions about the quality of the current season. Early this year I sounded like the voice of doom – “it’s too cool”, “we’re too far behind”, etc but I was concerned about the quality and quantity of the fruit we could expect in a very strange year (late rains, no heat, really warm fall). Well, “who knows, it’s just farming” turned out to apply once again. It was looking pretty scary in September but 80° temperatures all through October brought most of the fruit to perfect ripeness after all. It’s going to be a fairly good vintage – not as good as 2016, but not as bad as 2015 was for us. Some of the fruit didn’t make it. Mourvedre, a notoriously late ripener, never got there (unless you like 9% alcohol Rose’s), and our Picpoul blanc is a little on the light side. Rule number one… to quote “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, “Don’t Panic”. It all worked out fine.
Speaking of working our just fine, our first month alone in the Tasting Room did just that. Our traffic was – predictably – a little lighter, but sales were good and much fun was had. With your help, we hope to continue our roll and have a fantastic fall and holiday season. Stop by, try all of the new wines – Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon – and reacquaint yourself with our award-winning Rhone varietals. We’re looking forward to seeing you.
It’s October and fall is in the air… seriously, it was 50 degrees in the vineyard this morning. The weatherman says a couple more weeks of warm weather coming – please, please, please – which is good because the grapes need a little more time to reach peak deliciousness before picking.
The big news this month is that La Vie Dansante Wines (and LVD Wine Company) are finally on their own in the winery and tasting room. We wish TASS and Medeiros Family all the luck and success in the world but we’re kinda happy to have the place to ourselves. Remember back when you got your first house or apartment that you didn’t have to share with roommates? It’s a lot like that. It was fun having them around, but we’re looking forward to being able to leave our laundry on the floor – metaphorically, of course. We’ll fill you in on all of the details via an email in the next week or so (join the mailing list at the bottom of this page!)
Harvest has begun in earnest – at least for the other guys. Calerrain Wines is working here this year and has brought in Albarino, Chardonnay, and some Grenache for Rose. J Winston has landed a bunch of Pinot noir. Today we expect some Pinot noir for Sarah’s Vineyard. This has been a strange year for wineries in the south county and we’re committed to helping our winemaker friends by giving them a place to make their small-batch wines.
Our harvest should start later this week or early next week with Viognier and Grenache. We can’t wait!
Well, it’s September, and here we sit. It’s been a craaazy lead-up to harvest. TASS has officially left the building to begin their new life as “Cinnabar Winery”, and Medeiros Family will be leaving at the end of this month to move to their new winery in the Sierra Foothills. Our winery is transitioning from packed to the ceiling to almost empty – which is fantastic for La Vie Dasante Wines because we have big plans than need more space. Facebook and Instagram followers as well as email subscribers can expect a full rundown on the changes in the next week or so. For the purposes of this update just realize the buidling is in a state of chaos…during the busiest time of the year!
Adding to the chaos is our desire to help out some of our fellow winemakers who have suddenly found themselves homeless right as harvest begins. There are three wineries who strangely enough each have their own tasting rooms but have no place to make wine in 2019. To help them over this speedbump we’ll be opening our doors to them for the next 90 days or so. With two wineries leaving, and three wineries temporarily moving in we expect to spend much of this harvest laughing at the spectacle.
Speaking of harvest…still no grapes. I’ve been saying all along that this has been a really cool summer and that harvest looks to be about three weeks behind, and here is the proof. Normally Viognier would already be through fermentation and into a barrel but this year we don’t expect to even see the fruit for at least another week. On one hand we need the time for the transition, but on the other hand we’re going crazy sitting around waiting. Ah well, farming.
This summer we started a summer music series which has been well received. Our plans for next year include a Spring, a Summer, and a Fall music series of eight weeks each. We’re looking for sponsorship for these three series (shout out to Fred “Sonny” Dimeo Insurance for sponsoring this summer’s series). Stop by or drop Jeff an email if you’re interested in this co-marketing opportunity.
We’re also looking to begin hosting a small number of very intimate evenings with special artists on our stage. The first of this series is “Stories” with Austin Freeman on Saturday, September 21st. You can find more information in the column to the right —>
And just like that… it’s the beginning of harvest. No, fruit isn’t suddenly ripening and arriving on the crush pad, I mean it’s time to start prepping the facilities. Everything needs to be cleaned and organized to make room for fermentation. New equipment is arriving (!). Grape contracts need to be confirmed, vineyards need to be visited. Alerts just started popping up on my calendar reminding me to inventory all of our supplies and order things we’ll need in the next 90 days. This time of year is exciting… and terrifying! Too much to do and not enough hours in the day.
At the same time it’s our last chance to take a few hours off and enjoy the summer. Time to get to the dog park with Noe while it’s still light late. It’s hard because even when we force ourselves to take a few hours off we feel the weight of the impending harvest bearing down on us. Of course, it’s not our first rodeo, we know it always feels like this and that we’ll get through it, probably even better than last year. Harvest is what we live for!
To make the season a little more exciting this year La Vie Dansante Wines is headed into what (we hope) is a rapid growth phase. With the departure of our friends at TASS we’ve decided the time is right for us take over their space and move Blended, a Winemaker’s Studio to only two brands. It’s always been our desire and plan to eventually have the facility to ourselves. This is maybe a little ahead of schedule but “a faint heart never won a fair lady…” and La Vie Dansante Wines is definitely the lady of my life right now. (Oops, sorry Noelani). To make this work we’ll be improving our production facilities with some new equipment to allow us to make more wine with less effort. It should improve our wine quality, our mental state, and take some of the load off of our aging bodies. We’re also looking to hire our first “real”, as in “paid”, employees and move to being open seven days a week. To round out our offerings in the Tasting Room you can expect to see us release our first Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon blanc in the coming months under the LVD Wine Company label.
Change is good and we’re very excited about all the new things we’ll have to offer our wine club family, but we won’t be straying from our “rustic chic” style. We like the little oasis of calm we’ve built in the Gilroy countryside and have no plans to do anything too fancy, just maybe add a little polish. And we can’t imagine the day when you won’t be greeted by Jeff, the winemaker, and Noe, the brand ambassador, on your visit to the tasting room.
Here we are in the middle of summer and I feel like it’s still spring. The surprisingly cool summer probably has something to do with, that but more likely it’s due to how fast the days are flying by. Lots of new things happening around the winery – Movie Nights, Classes, and our new summer music series sponsored by Frederick Dimeo Insurance.
Summer bottling is also on our minds – we have 14 pallets of empty glass waiting to be filled with wine goodness as well as a bunch of cases from the last bottling that need to be labeled.
Pam’s Vineyard – where we get our ancient vines Carignane – is looking fantastic. It’s turning out to be a lot of work; spraying every 10 days, etc, but in the end it will all be worth the effort.
This is the time of the year we do a lot of work on wines, ensuring they’re maturing properly and are happy in their barrels. Of special note is the 2015 Syrah Reserve which we’ll be bottling very soon (if I don’t stick a straw in the barrel and drain it) and the Syrah Port which we think is just about there. The plan on the Port is to have the wine club taste it at the fall wine club social (September 7th at 6:00pm) and then bottle it around the first of December.
The movie series this summer is turning out to be a lot of fun. Our theme this time around is “Treasure Hunting Adventure”. The June movie was “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”, the upcoming July movie is “The Mummy” – the cool one with Brendan Fraser, not the sucky one with Tom Cruise. It’s Friday, July 26th at about 8pm. Join us for a fun date night filled with action, adventure, popcorn and good wine.
Well, the weather continues to vex us. It’s been cool all of the month of May and June – although it’s supposed to warm up – doesn’t look like a normal summer here in Gilroy. We’re not too worried since we purchase most of our fruit from other vineyards. The way the contracts work the fruit has to meet certain ripeness parameters – sugar levels, flavor, etc – or we’re not obligated to purchase. That means we won’t be making wine with sub-par fruit, but it also means we might not be making wine at all. At least not from local fruit. One of our options – which we’re already exploring – is to go south for grapes. Paso is cool this year too but they have a lot more growers with a lot more experience so we should be able to find everything we need.
We’ve been really busy around the winery in the past month. Mostly we’ve been working on plans for the future. We’re planning to paint the bathrooms and add art to the Tasting Room. We’ve started dipping our toes in distributing our wine locally. We’ve taken our wine on the road, presenting at five different wine walks and two private pourings. Basically just kicking it up a notch trying to bring La Vie Dansante to more people and grow our family.
As part of the “grow our family” project we’re introducing a new wine club benefit. If you introduce us to your friends and they decide to join our wine club family we’ll increase YOUR wine club discount by 5% for the next 12 months. Two friends join? 10%! All the way up to a total wine club discount of 50%. Just think, you could be drinking La Vie Dansante Wines at half off for a year!
The rain doesn’t worry us other than it’s making it difficult to get into the vineyard to work with the grapes. Oh, and the weeds are going crazy which for us organic farming guys means a lot more work with the week wacker since we don’t spray herbicides.
People are asking if all this water is a problem and the answer is, for now, “no”. getting water into the soil is almost always a good thing. There’s one day in the spring when the grapes flower that rain can be disastrous – it washes the pollen off the flowers and we get no crop. The only other problem with rain can occur later in the summer where excess moisture can cause mold and mildew on the clusters. We don’t worry too much about late rains. First, they never happen, and second our hot, dry, windy climate dries the vines out so quickly mildew has difficulty forming.
Our big concern is the lack of heat. Each variety of grapes needs a specific amount of heat to form sugars and drop acids – to ripen. Rhone varieties tend to need more than most. In a perfect vintage the heat is a nice slow gradual accumlation without any big hot or cold spikes. So far this year we’re not accumulating any heat in the berries. Maybe the rest of the summer will be warmer than normal…but maybe it will be like last year and we’ll never catch up. If we don’t catch up some of our grapes will never mature and the wines will be light and low in alcohol – I mean REALLY low in alcohol.
There are things we can do in the vineyard to mitigate the problem but they’re big, scary, un-reversable things like dropping fruit. If we drop fruit now the vines will use their limited energy (heat) to ripen the remaining clusters but we’ve severely limited our production.
So that’s where we sit right now, “to drop fruit, or not to drop”. Last year we guessed wrong and because of that unlucky guess we have no 2018 Mourvedre or Petite Sirah. The trick this year, like every year in farming is to not over-react. It will all work out in the end.
Budbreak! All through the vineyard things are turning green as we move into the first phase of a grapevines annual lifecycle. We got caught a bit by surprise in the Carignane vineyard – we planned to have a pruning party for our Wine Club but on the monday before I got a call from the owner saying “it’s now or never” so she and I did the pruning by ourselves over the course of four days. Sometimes nature just doesn’t play along.
We’re looking forward to getting back to some events at the winery. The next class is scheduled for Thursday April 25th and will cover blending the perfect GSM (Grenache – Syrah – Mourvedre) wine. This one is limited to a sixteen people and will sell out quickly. Come join us for a hands on blending experience and learn about the “Art” side of the winemaker job.
We’re also planning to teach some wine tasting classes at “The Grapevine” in downtown Morgan Hill. The plan is to have a class every second Monday of the month from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. We’ll talk about the steps used by wine tasters to identify what a wine is, where it came from, and how it was made – the the movie “Somm” (but a whole lot more low-key). Hopefully the first class will be in May (if we can get the wines together in time) so stay tuned to social media for more information.
Winemaking wise we’ve just about finished bottling all of the whites and are about to begin on the 2016 red just as soon as more glass arrives. Meanwhile we’re selling out of some of the currently available wines – the 2014 Prelude only has a few cases left, the 2016 Aubade is getting low, and the 2014 Grenache will follow close behind. Come and get them while you still can!
Ready…steady…go! The first of March is upon us and that, from our point of view, is the start of the “wine season”. March is the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley Passport which means we’ll be honoring your Passports any day we’re open – Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, even Monday for the whole month. April and May bring all of the wine walks, strolls…stumbles. We’ll be at the Gilroy Wine Walk, the Los Gatos Wine Walk, and probably (not certain yet) the Saratoga Wine Stroll. Check our events column on this page for more details.
It’s still all about bottling. We’re on our third of about twelve bottling days and the good news is we’ve finally got it wired. Filtration is smooth, bottling is quick – now it just putting 3,000 gallons of wine into bottles (about 15,000) of them at a pace of about 1,200 per day. If you’re a wine club member and you’re interested in helping out drop us a not at Info@LaVieDansanteWines.com and we’ll add you to our email list for helpers. It doesn’t pay much but it’s a lot of fun.
Today dawned sunny and warm. We know there’s more rain on the way, but just for a moment we can see the promise of spring. We feel rejuvinated, anything is possible, and everything is right in the world. This is a time of rebirth in the vineyards as the vines begin their annual cycle. We look to be about 4 to 6 weeks from budbreak but the cover crop is up and thriving so we should have flowers any day. This is a truly magical time of the year to stop by the tasting room and enjoy a glass of wine in the sunshine. Days like today are definitely on our list of top five reasons we love this life,
Rain. Rain, rain, rain. More rain. That’s what we’re looking at in February. Don’t get me wrong, I love the rain, and the vines need the water and cool weather, but this is getting ridiculous. At least the Tasting Room is warm and cozy so don’t let a little water scare you off. Stop by and hang-out. We’ll talk about food, music, wine… the rain, and get to know you better.
Since the vineyards are one big bog our focus for work in February turns indoors. We’re frantically working to perfect the 2017 white blends so we can get them to bottle. As soon as that’s done we’ll move to blending and bottling the 2016 reds. Our Tasting Room is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so we get two full days to concentrate on winemaking – we’re using every available minute.
We’ve also been working on the events calendar for the coming year. This month we have the next in our Wine Symposia series – “From Grape to Glass, a Wine’s Journey” where we’ll talk about the entire process making wine, from grape growing to bottling. With only 90 minutes it will be just an overview but it will give you a firm foundation in the processes behind what is in your glass.
In March we’ll once again celebrate the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley’s Spring Passport. Look for more information on their website and in our Tasting Room. The kick-off party is at Coyote Creek Golf Course on Friday March 1st and is well worth the extra $25 fee. On the 9th of March we’ll be headed north to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds for the third annual Hop ‘N Vine event. This event brings together almost 30 wineries and over a dozen breweries along with food and merchandise vendors. This is always our favorite pouring event of the year. Tickets are available at the Hop ‘N Vine website. Finally on Saturday the 16th of March from 6pm to 9pm is our Spring Wine Club social. The plans aren’t fully developed yet but you can be sure Jeff will be cooking, and fun will be had.
There’s a lot going on this spring. As a reminder, we’re open during the week on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Stop by and share a glass… or two.
Ah January, the time when a young winemaker’s fancy turns to… taxes. After three great months of concentrating on making the best wines possible we now shift gears and work on getting our books into the best shape possible before sending them off to the Accountant. I’ve told many people in the Tasting Room that winemaking is only about 20% of the job. Another 40% is running a small business (the other 40% is marketing and selling wine). Any small business will work you twice as hard as you expected before you began but running a winery is especially difficult because we deal in a controlled substance. This means lots of record keeping and forms to fill out each year. The first week of January we run a complete physical inventory that covers every drop of wine, piece of merchandise, or package of food. Everything has to be accounted for. Using the inventory we calculate the amount of Federal Excise Tax we need to pay (due 1/15), the amount of State Excise Tax (also the 15th), the State Sales Tax (1/31) and finally the State Usage Tax (also the 31st). In addition to the taxes we need to document every action taken in the winery during 2018 through TTB Form 5120.17 and BoE form 501-WG. Luckily we keep pretty complete records so most of this is just filling out the forms and making sure it all adds up in the end – still, it will take every minute of January to complete.
So all of the above is true but with one small caveat – we’ll definitely find the time to take care of the wines and even get a little bottling done. Our plan is to bottle the 2016 Grenache, 2017 Grenache Rose, and hopefully some of the 2017 whites before the end of the month.
For such a strange harvest season it actually turned out pretty terrific. All of the wines are safely in tank or barrel and all of the equipment has been cleaned, serviced, and put away for another year. With a few exceptions the wines are spectacular. We can’t wait to share the Grenache Blanc and Viognier with you, they truly are special. This year’s Syrah and Grenache are every bit as good and the Carignane – especially the Pamela’s Vineyard – is sure to be a must have, wine club only wine. We struggled a bit with having sone of our fruit contracts cancelled – we’re short on Roussannne and Petit Sirah – and the Mourvedre never really ripened. We have some work-arounds planned for this vintage and a plan to find more reliable vineyards for next year in the works.
There was a bit of bottling that we were supposed to get done last August but we ran out of tine so we’re attacking it this month with the hope of being back on track by the end of the year. Next up on the line: 2017 Aubade, 2017 Grenache Blanc, 2017 Viognier, 2017 Roussanne, and the 2017 Grenache Rose.
With the new year comes our rededication to education. We hope to have the wine symposium schedule for 2019 published in the next week or so. The goal is one class per month, every month except December when there’s just too much goinig on with the holidays to make it practical.
Next year’s goinog to be another busy one! Thanks for sticking with us as we continue to mature and grow, we TRULY appreciate your support.
This has been a really strange harvest season.
First it started late, and now I’ve been having trouble getting all of the fruit I was promised. I had two sources of Roussanne setup up for this season, each was supposed to provide one ton of grapes. The first source called on the day they picked to tell me there wasn’t enough to fill our order… would we care for some Marsanne instead? Marsanne is a terrific grape but without it’s blending partner, Roussanne, it’s not very useful. I said “yes” anyway because we need something for the 2018 Aubade, even though it’s not my first (or even second) choice. It didn’t matter since a couple of hours later I got a call saying “not enough Marsanne either”. Well, now what? Luckily my second source didn’t cancel on me and we have enough Roussanne for the blend, just not enough for a 2018 Roussanne single varietal.
The cool summer has also led to low brix, or sugar, numbers on some of the other fruit. The Mourvedre ended at 20 brix when we needed at least 23 brix for a stand-alone wine. At 20 brix you get about an 11% alcohol wine – luckily we need it mostly for the 2018 Serenade, a GSM blend, where it’s job is to brighten up the Syrah and Grenache. Following a trend, the Grenache blanc is looking like it will end at 22 brix, also a little light for the stand-alone wine. I saw this coming and the other wines that blend with it for the 2018 Aubade are a little bigger than I would normally like. Put them together with the light Grenache blanc and we should have perfection.
So, are there any bright spots to this harvest? Yes! The fruit this year is beautiful, acids are still there, and pH’s are lower than usual. This is perfect for the kind of wines we all enjoy. Also, the ancient vines Carignane is looking perfect. We’ll definitely have a single variety 2018 Carignane in our future. In the end, it’s all farming. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but mostly it all works out. One thing about winemaking, it’s never boring!
Harvest finally began! Normally we’d be busy from the first week of September on but this year we didn’t get our first grapes until near the end of the month. In fact it got so bad we needed to slide our “hands-on” Boutique Winemaking class into October because we had no fruit to put in our hands. That’s all changed now and we’re busy fermenting the 2018 Grenache and Syrah. Viognier is already done and in the tank and we’re anxiously awaiting the next load of grapes. The climate is a little strange this year but we hope to still bring in Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Carignane, and Mourvedre. There’ll probably also be a little Cabernet Sauvignon in the near future so we can continue to make our popular “Stage Right”.
We have one more class on the 2018 schedule, Candlemaking, which we’ll hold on the night of Thursday, October 18th. The cost is $45 and tickets are available at our online wine shop or in the Tasting Room. In this class you’ll learn how to make professional, long lasting candles from a selection of seasonal and holiday scents. Come enjoy the class and take home a candle for yourself or as a present for a friend.
Being open on weekdays has turned out to be our favorite part of the week. We offer a different, La Vie Dansante Wines-centric tasting list. The smaller weekday crowds give us time for one-on-one conversations about wine, wine making and grapes or whatever catches your fancy. Come join us for a wine tasting in a relaxed vineyard atmosphere.
Whelp, it’s September and here we sit waiting for grapes. Normally by now this place is a beehive of activity. Fruit, starting with Viognier, begins landing during the first week of September and then really gets going with the Grenache and Syrah two weeks later. Unfortunately this has been a really cool summer – yes, I know there were our normal unbearably hot days in July and August, but overall we had quite a bit fewer of what we call “degree days”. Grapes ripen in two ways; first, sunlight brings flavor, and second, heat brings sugars. We’ve had great sunlight so we’re confident we’ll have exceptional flavors the year, the problem is the lack of heat. Grapes will ripen about 1% of sugar for every week that averages over 85 degrees. We want to harvest at about 24% sugar and we’re currently sitting at about 20%. That means we need about four more weeks of good heat, and we’re just not getting it this year. Don’t panic though. It’s farming and everything could change tomorrow. In the end everything will turn out ok, it’s just the impatient waiting that’s killing us.
We have two more movies in our fall series, “Airplane!” on the 14th and “Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery” on the 28th. These movie nights are turning out to be a lot of fun so don’t miss out on the last two of the season. “Curtain” will be about 7:45. There’s no admission charge and we provide the popcorn. You should bring a camping or beach chair (we have chairs but ours aren’t very comfortable), a jacket and/or blankets, and snacks if you want them. 21 and over only, no pets, and no outside alcohol please. Support your local winemaker and drink local.
There’s also two classes remaining in the summer series, “Boutique” winemaking on the 20th of September, and “Candle Making” on October 18th. Both classes are $45 per person but wine club discounts apply. You’ll receive a fascinating lecture, 2 glasses of wine, and in the case of the Candle Making class, your very own candle to take home with you. Tickets are available at our online wine shop or in the Tasting Room.
Can you believe we’re already in the last half of the summer? For us that means it’s time to start thinking about harvest – and the feelings of anxiety and panic that go with it. It’s still a little early to start cleaning and actually preparing for grapes so there’s not a lot for us to do besides sit around worrying. Worrying about grapes – are my growers going to come through with what I need (and how in the world will we pay for them)? Worry about supplies – yeast, tannins, acid, cleaners, etc. Worry about staffing – will we have people to help process the fruit? Worry about events – Harvest Party, Passport, Movie Nights, Classes. For us August is the most stressful time of the year. You can see all the work coming but there’s nothing you can do to get a head start! But don’t panic. By next month everything will fall into place, it always does, and we’ll be happily working to produce the sixth (!) vintage of La Vie Dansante Wines.
We’ve really started to up our events games with movie nights – The Princess Bride and Top Gun – and classes – Wines of the Rhone; Our Inspiration – this month. We have our first Harvest Party scheduled for early next month which means lots of recipe testing and preparation in August. We’ve also tried to step up our Tasting Room experience during the week. Traffic is still slow but it’s starting to build and we want to be sure our guests have a fantastic visit when they stop by mid-week.
It’s a busy time, but it’s an exciting time. We feel like kids and it’s only six weeks until Christmas!
Happy 4th of July everyone! Can you believe the year is half over? It doesn’t seem possible but the growing grape clusters and the fact I just closed fiscal week 26 in the books say it must be so. There’s lots going on around the winery these days as we settle into being open five days a week. Thanks to all of you wonderful people who enjoy our wines and like to come hang out with us we continue to grow and expand. I firmly believe a “real” winery is open at least every weekend and preferably all seven days. I knew moving to five days a week would be a bit taxing on my time but the payoff is a little extra business and the ability to connect one-on-one with our weekday guests. It’s definitely been a win for us so now I’m starting to think about how to be open those other two days. What does all of this mean? La Vie Dansante Wines is looking to hire our first (paid) employee. I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but I know it has to happen. I’m currently writing the job description which will include working in the Tasting Room and driving our Social Media campaigns. If you know anybody looking for a part time, low paying, hard working position in a beautiful location let me know.
As part of being a “real” winery I’m re-committing (is that even a word) to our events calendar. Look for more info on the “Events” tab of this website and on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We’re finally going to begin those movie nights and wine classes. We’re also looking forward to hosting a couple candle making classes this fall.
Saturday, September 8th from 6 to 9pm will be La Vie Dansante Wine’s first Harvest Party! We have a fantastic band lined up, Eric Stone from Destin Florida, harvest games, and lots of food planned. The party coincides with our Fall Wine Club release so members will receive two complimentary tickets and have the ability to purchase discounted tickets for their friends – better yet, get your friends to join and they’ll get their own free tickets and I’ll increase your member discount by 5% for the next 12 months (up to a maximum of 15% total increase per year).
Lots of exciting things in the works so watch for the emails. Which reminds me… Wine Club members, did you know you can add additional email addresses to your account so everyone can be in the loop? Just drop me a note at “info@LaVieDansanteWines.com” with the address you’d like to add.
Time to get at it. Happy Fourth everybody, stay safe and have a great holiday.
A strange thing is happening inside the winery building… for the first time since we started this wild ride we seem to be caught up on winemaking tasks! The 2015 reds will be in bottle in the next two weeks, the 2016 rough blending will (probably) be done by the end of the month. Racking is complete on the 2017’s. We’re even starting to think about filtering and bottling the 2017 whites! Probably the best indication of this new level of organization is that I’ve been able to spend a couple of hours a day for the past week or so catching up on my magazine reading.
I subscribe to four magazines – “Wines and Vines”, “Wine Business Monthly”, “Wine Spectator”, and “Wine Enthusiast” – that help keep my head in the game as far as continually increasing wine quality and the guest experience in our Tasting Room. Unfortunately, for the past several years reading magazines has fallen to the bottom of the priority list. When I finally found time to attack the pile of past issues I discovered magazines dated April 2015! Anybody care about the 2014 California Crush Report? Me neither so my first task was to go through all of those back issues and tear out the interesting or still pertinent articles – a much more approachable task!
Now that we have a handle on the winemaking we’re turning our eye towards the Tasting Room, finishing some outstanding projects and working on the event calendar. I feel like we’ve made great strides in providing a fun, educational wine tasting experience but then I look around and see all of the progress other wineries have made and I know we need to continue to innovate and improve. It’s not really a competition and I’m honestly proud to be a part of our fellow Santa Clara Wineries and what we’ve become in just a few short years – but I still want to win!
So, until next month… time to get back to work!
In my daydreams May is the first of the “slack” months of summer, a time to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy some time off before harvest. By this time of the year all of the spring winery-related activities – Racking, Bottling, Event Planning, etc – have been finished. Unfortunately this is just a daydream, the life of a young winery is a much different reality! We’ve made great progress, all of wine work is current and things are looking good. The spring bottling is pretty much done (shout out to Ruth and Jeff for their many hours of help!). Only three lots left to get into the bottle; Serenade (the successor to Prelude), Nocturne (the new darker red cuvée), and an LVD Wine Co Zinfandel. We’re just waiting on the labels to be printed and then we’ll get those three in bottle and be done with this year’s wines. Of course then we’ll need to get busy on blending the 2016 reds. If we can get that done in June we’ll be “caught up” for the first time…ever.
We’ve pretty much finished up the spring wine walk season with only the South Valley Wine Auction on the 11th remaining. Each year we try to do about four wine walks, two because they’re in our neighborhood (Gilroy and Morgan Hill), and two more to extend our reach into new areas. We’ve been moving northward, Campbell, Willow Glen, Saratoga but recently I’ve been thinking we need to look southward more – Hollister is happening y’all. Sadly we came to this realization on the exact day – last Saturday – that Hollister was holding it’s annual wine walk. Oh well, next year for sure.
The biggest thing we’re trying to catch up on is the overall events calendar. We’ve been promising classes, music, movie nights, etc but haven’t been really good on following through. We’re working hard this week to get all those dates figured out and people/space reserved. Look for a newsletter coming out next week that has the full plan for the rest of the summer. Another thing that will be in the newsletter is the announcement of our next Wine Club release which will be on June 9th. We’re a little thin on details right now but the newsletter should have all the info you’ll need.
The last big news for this month is that the Spring Rosé, our 2016 Rosé of Mourvedre will be released on Mother’s day weekend. This is a crisp, clean Rosé perfect for enjoying during a lazy afternoon around the pool. It’s low(er) alcohol, only 12%, and sells for $24 a bottle ($19.20 for Wine Club members). We have less than 50 cases and expect it to sell out quickly so stop by soon and pick up your summer case.
The big news for April is the formation of a new group supporting the resurgence of Rhone varietals here in Santa Clara County. La Vie Dansante Wines is very proud to be a Charter Member of the GSM Rhone Society which also features Sarah’s Vineyard, Aver Family Wines, and Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery. Normally “GSM”, when it pertains to wine, means “Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre”, a common blend in the south of the Rhone Valley. In this case “GSM” stands for “Gilroy, San Martin, and Morgan Hill”. Yeah, we think we’re pretty clever.
The GSM Rhone Society was formed as a mutual support society for wineries who are actively pushing the resurgence of Rhone grapes and wines in our valley. To be a member the focus of your vineyard or winery must be on the Rhone grapes and wines we make from them. You must also be actively promoting the varietals and those other wineries that make them. Basically you can be a member if when people think of your winery they immediately. There is also some talk of establishing a “quality mark” similar to the embossed keys you see on bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape or the rooster you find on bottle of Chianti.
Watch for the GSM Launch Party being held on at 5:30pm Wednesday April 25th at The Grapevine on Depot Street in downtown Morgan Hill. You’ll have a chance to meet all four winemakers and sample locally produced Rhone-style wines.
In the winery we’re crazy busy bottling wines to be released this fall. So far we’ve finished a Mourvèdre Rosé, the 2016 Roussanne, the 2015 Syrah, a bunch more Stage Right, and a little Chardonnay (for a friend). Still to go are the 2015 Serenade, the 2015 Nocturne, and possibly a little 2015 Zinfandel (under the LVD Wine Co label). This is also the time of year when we start talking to all of our Vineyard Managers, trying to pin down some prices and commitments on grapes. We’ve got our 2018 Production Plan all worked out but right now it’s just words on paper – time to start turning it into reality.
In the February News post we mentioned a “big announcement” for March. Well, here it is… Beginning March 4th La Vie Dansante Wines will be open for Tasting five days a week from noon to 5pm. That’s right, you’ll be able to stop by and enjoy a glass or two of wine from Thursday through Monday. We’ll be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesday to allow us some time to get the rest of our projects done around the winery and hopefully enjoy a little down time. If all goes well we plan to hire a part time server to assist us later this summer and we’ll be able to be open daily.
But wait, there’s more! During Passport weekend – March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th – we’ll be releasing La Vie Dansante’s Barrel Aged Syrah and Champagne vinegars. Both of these are hand-crafted in the premium Orleans method and then allowed to age for a year in oak – new french for the Syrah, and neutral french for the Champagne. As lovers of anything pickled we have to say these are going be amazing in pickles, a vinaigrette, or just plain on veggies.
Also happening in March is the La Vie Dansante Wines Spring Wine Club release party which will be held March 17th from 1pm to 4pm. Yes, that’s St Patrick’s Day, and No, we won’t be coloring the wine green. The 17th will be the release of La Vie Dansante’s first every Viognier. We were coerced into opening a bottle last week and it is simply delicious. We’re planning to have food and some live music so be sure to join us for this fun event.
On the winemaking front we have a ton of bottling to do. Basically, all of the 2015 Reds, the 2016 Roussanne, the 2017 Rose, more Stage Right, and even a little Chardonnay for a friend. Anybody interested in working on the bottling line (it pays Pizza and wine) drop a note to Jeff at Jeff@LaVieDansanteWines.com – we can always use another pair of hands.
When I was first thinking about starting up a winery we thought “what a great job, you work hard from March through December and then you get to take three months off”. Boy, were we wrong. Really wrong. We sat down at the beginning of February and put together a detailed project list for the upcoming year. Everything from finishing the Tasting Room to creating an entertainment calendar. I wanted to capture ALL of the upcoming projects so that nothing could slip through the cracks. Well, two problems; first, we did a GREAT job on the list – something like 125 projects – second, all of the projects seem to have a due date of “Before the first of March”. Why? Check out the News for March and see our big announcement.
So this month, after a bunch of organizational stuff, boils down to a ton of physical labor. We plan to completely dismantle and refinish all of the picnic tables, complete the small patch of pavers in front of the Tasting Room, finish the gaming area, make food and soft drinks available in the Tasting Room. Then there’s the winemaking stuff; a vineyard to prune, wines to blend, vinegar to bottle, labels to design an get approved… you get the idea. What we thought was going to be an “easy” month turns out to be 12 hour days, seven days a week to get ready for our big season!
Welcome to a brand new year! We’re back from a few days of relaxation and we’re ready to go.
January, at least the first part of it, is all about administrative stuff. Taxes – Federal and State Excise, State Sales, and State Usage – are all due this month as is all of our reporting to the government about the amount of wine we produced, sold, and consumed. Later this month we’ll sit down and go over the numbers and if it’s anything like last year it will resemble the four stages of grief: Denial – there’s no way we drank that much. Anger – How could you let me drink all the profits? Bargaining – Can I say we donated a bunch to charities to hide the loss from the accountant? Finally, Acceptance – Ok, what’s done is done we’ll just have to work harder this year (and not drink our own wine!).
This is also the time of year we put together our operational calendar – what we’ll be doing at the winery (or offsite) every weekend between now and the Holidays. Working and pouring at Blended, a Winemaker’s Studio makes this both more important and more difficult than it could be – there are two other wineries to deconflict with for Wine Club releases and such. Beyond the Wine Club there are Wine Walks and Strolls, Winemaker Dinners, Music, and classes to consider. It’s only the third day of the year and I already feel like we’re a month behind!
Finally (probably not, but I’m running out of space), there’s the Facilities work to consider. Last month we prepped the picnic area and seeded grass. Now the first rains have come and all of the gophers have emerged from wherever gophers go to celebrate their gopher holidays so we need to arms ourselves for the upcoming “battle of the grass”. So far we’re losing a bit, it’s 1 gopher caught, and 2 that got away. We’ll keep you posted on the results. One sure way to wine against the gophers is to lay down concrete pavers. The first load of what is supposed to be 15 tons (roughly 2,000 sqft) arrived last week and the next load is due this week. Our plan is to put down pavers on the approach to the Tasting Room, in the Outdoor Tasting Area, on the way to the Restrooms, and to build an area around the palm tree with a firepit and benches… right on top of that damned gopher that evaded me twice today.
Oh, and there’s that winemaking thing to do. I guess I best get at it!